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A frame grab taken from a footage released by Russia's Defence Ministry shows smoke caused by airstrikes carried out by the country's air force at an unknown location in Syria, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation/Handout via Reuters

Russian raids in Syria’s south for first time

The Levant News — Russia appears to have carried out strikes in southern Syria’s Daraa province for the first time in an apparent expansion of its aerial campaign, a monitor said Thursday.

“Warplanes that are believed to be Russian carried out strikes on the Hara, Tal Antar, Kafr Nasaj and Aqraba areas of northern Daraa” last night, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor.

“This would be the first time that Russian planes have carried out strikes in Daraa,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

The Britain-based monitor had no immediate details on casualties or damage in the strikes.

The area targeted is controlled by an array of opposition groups including moderate and Islamist rebels and the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

There have been clashes there between opposition and regime forces, but the province has not seen the kind of large-scale ground operation launched by government forces in coordination with Russian strikes elsewhere in the country since Moscow’s air campaign began on Sept. 30.

The southern province, which borders Jordan, is largely under opposition control, with the provincial capital divided between regime and rebel forces.

On Thursday morning, the Observatory said, Russian warplanes renewed strikes elsewhere in Syria, including in the central province of Homs and the northwestern province of Idlib.

Russia says its air campaign targets the ISIS group and other “terrorists” but the opposition accuses Moscow of focusing on Islamist rebels rather than extremists.

Source: Agence France Presse

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